Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mother of the Year, in my book...

About ten years ago, I attended the funeral of a dear woman from my church who had never married.  At some point, she had adopted the role of surrogate grandmother to my son, Ben, and kept that relationship with him until she passed away.  It was a comfortable arrangement -- she sent notes of encouragement, cards for significant events, and went out of her way to speak to him every Sunday at church.  She entertained us in her home, and genuinely enjoyed sharing her expertise in jigsaw puzzles and proper conversation.  

Miss Anne, as we all called her, was never married, yet she spoke, lovingly, of her many children.  You see, she was a teacher -- for more than forty years -- and every single child that had been in her classroom became one of her own.  

Several years after become acquainted with Miss Anne, and her passion for "her kids," I served on a committee to choose the church's "Mother of the Year."  I was pretty adamant that she, more than any biological mother, deserved consideration, but was overruled by the committee, because, well, "that's not the way we've ever done it before."    

I was the only teacher on the committee, so I guess the rest of them just didn't understand the true connection between teachers and students.  They really are OUR kids, and in our hearts, they're there for life.

"I've Graduated, Now Nobody Knows Me."

I jokingly tell former students who ask me if they can use me as a reference for a summer job -- or beyond -- after graduation, that they are welcome to use me as a reference, as long as they stay out of the police blotter.  So many freshmen go off to college, and fail to develop meaningful relationships with professors and advisers during their first year, leaving them feeling fairly stranded when it comes to character references.  In one case, I provided a reference for a former student from more than ten years ago -- for some sort of government security clearance.  (I'm just hoping he'll get a peak at my FBI file at some point and let me know what's in it!)  

Yes, Teachers of the Gifted (TOG) write and complete many references and letters of recommendations.  Since the last day of school, I've completed more than a dozen -- two for former student teachers, six for summer jobs, one for a college application, and seven for scholarships.  It isn't really possible to "only recommend the best kids," because, quite frankly, they ARE the best kids!

As I've spoken to parents this summer about scheduling issues, injuries, homesickness, and other college remorse issues, I feel their pain, almost as deeply as they do, because they've shared their children with me for years, and a part of them lives in my heart as well.

I'm not alone in this, and I know it isn't a new phenomenon.  I learned from Miss Anne, Mother of the Year, to hundreds of children, who never had the benefit of computer files.  The thought of writing letters of recommendation on typewriters, from a file of onion skinned carbons, is almost incomprehensible to me.  Teachers all over the world have a Miss Anne in their lives who served as a mentor, passing the trend of holding students in our hearts from generation to generation.

And that's one aspect of education that should never be retired.

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